The bottom line: 'Use it or Lose it'

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When Joni Mitchell wistfully sang "...you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" in 1970, she probably wasn't talking about our base theater. And when the hair-metal band Cinderella used that line as the title of their 1988 power ballad, they probably weren't talking about surfboard rentals at the Beach House. But that's exactly the mournful tune we'll be singing around the Air Force if we don't use the resources and benefits that we're currently being offered.

The financial reality is that the federal budget is facing huge reductions and our national and local leaders must make tough decisions on what to fund in the future and what to cut. You can impact those decisions by supporting the programs that support you.

Millions and millions of dollars are spent each year on national and local programs to improve the lives of Air Force members and their families. Some, like the many programs at the Airman and Family Readiness Center (Military Family Life Consultant, financial counselors, new-parent programs) are meant to make our lives easier.

Others, like the base library and education center are about self improvement. And still others, like the bowling alley, Tides, Beach House, and MWR, are meant to bring more enjoyment to our lives and recreation for our families. What they all have in common, though, is that if we don't take advantage of them, they won't be around for much longer.

Cape Canaveral is dotted with long-abandoned launch pads and processing facilities. There are flat concrete aprons where sturdy blockhouses once stood.

When programs got cancelled or replaced, the pads were abandoned and the buildings demolished. No requirement, no facility. I see the potential for the same thing with the resources and programs that I described above: If we don't demonstrate that there's a requirement by actually using them, they will be abandoned and demolished as well.